What a craze it was when goldfish became family pets. Grab a glass jar, fill it with water and some rocks, and you had an entertaining time watching the fish swim around and eat the flakes of fish food tossed into the water. Not every house had goldfish. Many did. And a buddy and I attempted to turn goldfish into a money-making hobby.

Lake George was a lake in the middle of our hometown. Surrounding it were the municipal swimming pool, a shack used as a warming house during the months of ice skating, and an almost forgotten marsh. Somehow, in our checking out the marsh, we discovered bigger goldfish than sold through the pet shops. A 2-incher was on the small side. A 5-incher topped off our discovery.

Between those two sizes, we had a business-in-the-making.

We waded into the marsh with our pant legs rolled up to our knees and then ”captured” the fish in our recycled five-gallon cherry cans. Occasionally, there would be more than one fish inside. Scooping them out by hand and transferring the fish to bowls of clean water was exciting. We could almost hear our cash register ring as we collected quarters and half-dollars for a couple of goldfish.

The money-making venture lasted for two or more weeks until the fish went belly-up in the city water furnished to customer homes. The discovery was something that we kids had not even thought about. We found out that you can’t place goldfish in city water. They just couldn’t adjust to clean city water after growing up in swamp water. So, our money-making venture came to a screeching halt.

Orange crates turned into push carts became a thing to do. And our big-ballooned bicycles were in constant need of upgrades. Fastening a playing card to the back wheel with a clothes pin changed it into a motor bike, or so we thought. It sure sounded like one.

Our summer months were spent playing baseball. Our West-end Seeburger Park was the gathering point for all who desired to play the game against the other park-sponsored teams in our city. We had a good team, until we met some of the teams from the south and north sides of town. They were a step ahead of us. Once a game was scheduled, we’d travel by bike to the ball diamonds. What made our team better in other ways was the fact that we would bike out to the veterans hospital and play the vets who were capable of playing baseball. It was something to see us ride through the entrance gate and head for the baseball field. A vet by the name of Smitty was always on hand to welcome us. He and the other veterans seemingly enjoyed the competition.

It also opened our eyes to the horror of war. Some of the older veterans had been gassed during World War I. Their faces were often contorted. And later, as World War II raged on, the hospital began receiving shell-shocked veterans from the foreign battlefields. It was noticeable as those veterans sat in the bleachers with minds that were focused on things other than the ballgame.

This was our growing-up period in life. As the Big War continued, we kids grew up and became high school students. In almost all cases, we had older brothers who had gone off to war. Baseball was never the same after that. Our playground baseball team was a thing of the past. With some of our players off to the public schools, and others to the parochial school, it was seldom that we met again for a good old game of sandlot baseball. I wonder if the cows that were tethered at our vacant sandlot missed the action? As kids, we were hyped about avoiding the cow pies.

It truly was a challenging time in our young lives with a war to win and high school to complete. The Big War finally ended in 1945. Never did any of us expect that in another five years, our country would become engaged in another battle, the Korean Conflict. More about that later.

How about this for a 100 percent effort? “Help me to always give 100 percent at work — 12 percent on Monday, 23 percent on Tuesday, 40 percent on Wednesday, 20 percent on Thursday and 5 percent on Friday.”

Celibacy is a choice in life not always welcomed. While attending a marriage encounter weekend, Walter and his wife, Peg, listened as the instructor declared, “It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.” He addressed the men: “Can you name your wife’s favorite flower?” Walter leaned over and touched Peg’s arm gently and whispered, “Pillsbury, isn’t it?”

Steve Henry is a former radio and TV news director, and outdoor writer and photographer. He can be reached at henrysteve84@yahoo.com.


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